Contemporary blacksmithing with Tim Bignell

24 May 2023

For eight years Tim was self-taught, at a time when few blacksmiths were around to share their knowledge and opportunities to learn and work in Australia in this field were limited. Tim headed to Sydney to complete a Certificate III in Heavy Fabrication (Blacksmithing), undertaking his apprenticeship at Sovereign Hill.

Tim did manage to connect with other blacksmiths over time and headed to Europe to work with and share knowledge with other blacksmiths. Over several overseas visits Tim became a “Journeyman” going from one blacksmith to another, learning and sharing knowledge and creating a valuable network.

In 2013 Tim was awarded the Winston Churchill Fellowship and travelled to France, Ireland, Italy and the United Kingdom to obtain advanced skills and knowledge in traditional blacksmithing practices through international exposure. Throughout his Fellowship he placed an emphasis on developing artistic disciples of blacksmithing as he identified this as an area of relevance to him and in addressing skill shortages in Australia. His Fellowship also included opportunities to observe modern day ironworks facilities, allowing him to gain new ideas and concepts in contemporary blacksmithing while building a greater network.

For the past twenty years Tim has run the blacksmithing shop at Sovereign Hill. He has spent time training other Sovereign Hill staff in this artform and demonstrating blacksmithing to the tourists. Tim has also spent recent years working on his succession plan to establish his own business at his home forge and to run workshops and courses through the newly established Australian Centre for Rare Arts and Forgotten Trades. The Rare Trades Centre was launched in November 2022 and through hands-on activities and workshops it aims to protect, conserve and encourage people to learn more about Australia’s rare trades – such as blacksmithing.

The art of blacksmithing and bladesmithing has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, and the popularity of artisanally-made goods has increased. There are more opportunities to use traditional and more modern techniques. Tim’s work concentrates on decorative and architectural work, as well as doing ironwork. He is also very interested in moving into the artistic area – working on artform and sculptural work using blacksmithing techniques.

You can read Tim Bignell’s Churchill Fellowship report here.

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